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Werwolf pennant

Werwolf (German for "werewolf", sometimes spelled "Wehrwolf") was the name given to a last-ditch Nazi plan, developed during the closing months of the Second World War, to create a German commando force which would operate behind enemy lines as the Allies advanced through Germany itself. Werwolf remained entirely ineffectual as a combat force, however, and in practical terms, its value as propaganda far outweighed its actual achievements.



After it became clear, by March 1945, that the remaining German forces had no chance of stopping the Allied advance, Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels seized upon the idea of Werwolf, and began to foster the notion, primarily through Nazi radio broadcasts, that Werwolf was a clandestine guerrilla organization comprising irregular German partisans, similar to the many insurgency groups which the Germans had encountered in the nations they occupied during the war. Despite such propaganda, however, this was never the actual nature of Werwolf, which in reality was always intended to be a commando unit comprising uniformed troops. Another popular myth about Werwolf is that it was intended to continue fighting underground even after the surrender of the Nazi government and the German military. In fact, no effort was ever made by the Nazi leadership to develop an insurgency to continue fighting in the event of defeat, in large measure because Adolf Hitler, as well as other Nazi leaders, refused to believe that a German defeat was possible, and they regarded anyone who even discussed the possibility as defeatists and traitors. As a result, no contingency plans to deal with defeat were ever authorized. However, as a result of Goebbels' efforts, Werwolf had, and in many cases continues to have, a mythological reputation as having been an underground Nazi resistance movement, with some even claiming that Werwolf attacks continued for months, or even years, after the end of the war. Its perceived influence went far beyond its actual operations, especially after the dissolution of the Nazi regime.[1]

Historian Perry Biddiscombe has also asserted that Werwolf represented a re-emergence of a genuinely radical, social-revolutionary current within National Socialism, something which had been present in the movement in its early days but which had been suppressed following the Nazi assumption of power in 1933.


The name was chosen after the title of Hermann Löns' novel, Der Wehrwolf (1910)[2]. Set in the Celle region, Lower Saxony, during the Thirty Years' War (1618–48), the novel concerns a peasant, Harm Wulf, who after his family is killed by marauding soldiers, organises his neighbours into a militia who pursue the soldiers mercilessly and execute any they capture, referring to themselves as Wehrwölfe. Löns said that the title was a dual reference to the fact that the peasants put up a fight (sich wehren) and to the protagonist's surname of Wulf, but it also had obvious connotations with the word Werwölfe in that Wulf's men came to enjoy killing.[3] While not himself a Nazi (he died in 1914) Löns' work was popular with the German far right, and the Nazis celebrated his work. Indeed, Celle's local newspaper began serialising Der Wehrwolf in January 1945.[4]

It may also be of relevance to the naming of the organisation that in 1942 OKW and OKH's field headquarters at Vinnitsa in the Ukraine were christened "Werwolf" by Adolf Hitler,[5] and Hitler on a number of occasions had used "Wolf" as a pseudonym for himself.


In late summer/early autumn 1944, Heinrich Himmler initiated Unternehmen Werwolf (Operation Werwolf), ordering SS Obergruppenführer Hans-Adolf Prützmann to begin organising an elite troop of volunteer forces to operate secretly behind enemy lines. As originally conceived, these Werwolf units were intended to be legitimate uniformed military formations trained to engage in clandestine operations behind enemy lines in the same manner as Allied Special Forces such as Commandos.[6] Prützmann was named Generalinspekteur für Spezialabwehr (General Inspector of Special Defence) and assigned the task of setting up the force's headquarters in Berlin and organising and instructing the force. Prutzmann had studied the guerrilla tactics used by Russian partisans while stationed in the occupied territories of the Ukraine and the idea was to teach these tactics to the members of Operation Werwolf.[1]

Gauleiters were to suggest suitable recruits, who would then be trained at secret locations in the Rhineland and Berlin. The chief training centre in the West was at Hülchrath Castle near Erkelenz, which by early 1945 was training around 200 recruits mostly drawn from the Hitler Youth.[7]

The tactics available to the organisation included sniping attacks, arson, sabotage, and assassination. Training was to include such topics as the production of home-made explosives, manufacturing detonators from common articles such as pencils and "a can of soup", and every member was to be trained in how to jump into a guard tower and strangle the sentry in one swift movement, using only a metre of string. Werwolf agents were supposed to have at their disposal a vast assortment of weapons, from fire-proof coats to silenced Walther pistols but in reality this was merely on paper; the Werwolf never actually had the necessary equipment, organisation, morale or coordination. Given the dire supply situation German forces were facing in 1945, the commanding officers of existing Wehrmacht and SS units were unwilling to turn over what little equipment they still had for the sake of an organization whose actual strategic value was doubtful.

Werwolf originally had about five thousand members recruited from the "SS" (Schutzstaffel) and the Hitler Youth (Hitler-Jugend). These recruits were specially trained in guerrilla tactics. Operation Werwolf went so far as to establish front companies to ensure continued funding in those areas of Germany which were occupied (all of the "front companies" were discovered and shut down within eight months). However, as it became increasingly clear that the reputedly impregnable Alpine Redoubt, from which their operations were to be directed by the Nazi leadership in the event that the rest of Germany had been occupied, was yet another grandiose delusion, Werwolf was converted into a terrorist organisation and in the last few weeks of the war, Operation Werwolf was largely dismantled by Heinrich Himmler and Wilhelm Keitel.[citation needed]

Disorganised attempts were made to bury explosives, ammunition and weapons in different locations around the country (mainly in the pre-1939 German–Polish border region) to be used by the Werwolf in their terrorist acts after the defeat of Germany, but not only were the amounts of material to be "buried" prohibitively low, by that point the movement itself was so disorganised that few actual members or leaders knew where the materials were, how to use them, or what to do with them. A large portion of these "depots" were found by the Russians and virtually none of the materials were actually used by the Werwolf.[8]

On March 23, 1945, Joseph Goebbels gave a speech, known as the "Werwolf speech", in which he urged every German to fight to the death. The partial dismantling of the organised Werwolf, combined with the effects of the "Werwolf" speech, caused considerable confusion about which subsequent attacks were actually carried out by Werwolf members, as opposed to solo acts by fanatical Nazis or small groups of SS.

Antony Beevor and Earl F. Ziemke have argued that Werwolf never amounted to a serious threat, in fact they are regarded by them as barely having existed. This view is supported by the RAND Corporation, which surveyed the history of US occupations with an eye to advising on Iraq. According to a study by former Ambassador James Dobbins and a team of RAND researchers, the total number of post-conflict American combat casualties in Germany was zero.[9]

German historian Golo Mann, in his The History of Germany Since 1789 (1984) also states that "The [Germans'] readiness to work with the victors, to carry out their orders, to accept their advice and their help was genuine; of the resistance which the Allies had expected in the way of 'werewolf' units and nocturnal guerrilla activities, there was no sign."[10]

Perry Biddiscombe is the only historian to have presented a somewhat different view. In his books Werwolf!: The History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement, 1944–1946 (1998)[1] and The Last Nazis: SS Werewolf Guerrilla Resistance in Europe, 1944-1947 (2000), Biddiscombe asserts that after retreating to the Black Forest and the Harz mountains, the Werwolf continued resisting the occupation until at least 1947, possibly until 1949–50. However, he characterises German post-surrender resistance as "minor",[11] and calls the post-war Werwolfs "desperadoes"[12] and "fanatics living in forest huts".[13] He further cites U.S. Army intelligence reports that characterised partisans as "nomad bands"[14] and judged them as less serious threats than attacks by foreign slave labourers[15] and considered their sabotage and subversive activities to be insignificant.[16] He also notes that: "The Americans and British concluded, even in the summer of 1945, that, as a nationwide network, the original Werwolf was irrevocably destroyed, and that it no longer posed a threat to the occupation."[17]

Biddiscombe also says that Werwolf violence failed to mobilise a spirit of popular national resistance, that the group was poorly led, armed, and organised, and that it was doomed to failure given the war-weariness of the populace and the hesitancy of young Germans to sacrifice themselves on the funeral pyre of the former Nazi regime. He concludes that the only significant achievement of the Werewolves was to spark distrust of the German populace in the Allies as they occupied Germany, which caused them in some cases to act more repressively than they might have done otherwise, which in turn fostered resentments that helped to enable Far Right ideas to survive in Germany, at least in pockets, into the post-war era.[1]

One often overlooked aspect of Werwolf is that the Hitler Youth component was also responsible for developing a new political youth movement which was intended to outlast the war, and which was called "neo-Nazism". Some current German neo-Nazi groups refer to themselves as "Werwolf" or "Wehrwolf", some of which use the Wolfsangel symbol (German for "wolf's hook") whose horizontal variant is known as "werewolf".[citation needed]

Alleged Werwolf actions

A number of instances of post-war violence have been attributed to Werwolf activity, but none have been proven.

  • It has been claimed that the destruction of the United States Military Government police headquarters in Bremen on June 5, 1945 by two explosions which resulted in 44 deaths [18] was a Werwolf-related attack. There is, however, no proof that it was due to Werwolf actions rather than to unexploded bombs or delayed-action ordnance.
  • Dr. Franz Oppenhoff, the newly appointed mayor of Aachen, was murdered outside his home in March 1945, allegedly by Werwolfs, but was in fact assassinated by an SS unit which was composed of Werwolf trainees from Hülchrath Castle. They were flown in at the order of Heinrich Himmler.[19]
  • Major John Poston, Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery's liaison officer was ambushed and killed a few days before Germany's surrender by unidentified assailants; in reality Poston died in an ambush by regular troops.[20]
  • Colonel-General Nikolai Berzarin, Soviet commandant of Berlin is often claimed to have been assassinated by Werwolfs, but actually died in a motorcycle accident on June 16, 1945.[21]
  • The Werwolf propaganda station "Radio Werwolf" (which actually broadcast from Nauen near Berlin during April 1945), also claimed responsibility for the assassination of Major General Maurice Rose, commander of the US 3rd Armored Division on 30 March 1945[22], who was in reality killed in action by regular troops on 31 March[23].
  • On 31 July 1945 an ammunition dump in Ústí nad Labem (Aussig an der Elbe), a largely ethnic German city in northern Bohemia ("Sudetenland"), exploded, killing 26 or 27[citation needed] people and injuring dozens. The explosion resulted in the "Ústí massacre" of ethnic Germans and was blamed on the Werwolf organization. A book published following the 1989 Velvet Revolution states that the explosion and massacre was perpetrated by Communists within the Czechoslovak secret services, specifically Bedřich Pokorný, leader of the Ministry of Interior's Defensive Intelligence (Obranné zpravodajství) department, as a pretext for the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia.[citation needed]

Allied reaction, reprisals and war crimes

According to Biddiscombe's research, in April 1945 General Eisenhower ordered that all partisans were to be shot.[24] As a consequence, some war crimes (summary executions without trial and the like) followed. Contrary to Section IV of the Hague Convention of 1907, "The Laws and Customs of War on Land", the SHAEF "counter insurgency manual" included provisions for forced labour and hostage taking.[25]

The German resistance movement was successfully suppressed in 1945.[26] However, collective punishment for acts of resistance, such as fines and curfews, was still being imposed as late as 1948.[27]

Biddiscombe estimates the total death toll as a direct result of Werewolf actions and the resulting reprisals as 3,000–5,000.[28]

Similar organizations

Within Germany

From 1946 onward Allied intelligence officials noted resistance activities by an organisation which had appropriated the name of the anti-Nazi resistance group, the Edelweiss Piraten (Edelweiss Pirates). The group was reported to be composed mainly of former members and officers of Hitler Youth units, ex-soldiers and drifters, and was described by an intelligence report as "a sentimental, adventurous, and romantically anti-social [movement]". It was regarded as a more serious menace to order than the Werwolf by US officials.[29]

A raid in March 1946 captured 80 former German officers who were members, and who possessed a list of 400 persons to be liquidated, including Wilhelm Hoegner, the prime minister of Bavaria. Further members of the group were seized with caches of ammunition and even anti-tank rockets. In late 1946 reports of activities gradually died away.[29]

Outside Germany

Although not connected with Werwolf in any way, there was some sporadic armed resistance and sabotage in the years immediately after the war carried out by ethnic Germans in the Soviet-controlled territories of western Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania[citation needed]. These activities were virtually unknown to the Western Allies, primarily because they were kept out of the official news channels by Soviet censors. These actions, however, are more correctly to be understood as resistance to the brutality of Soviet occupation and reprisals[citation needed](for example, many ethnic Germans in eastern Europe were forcibly deported to Siberia as slave laborers, from where few would ever return alive), rather than as an effort to resurrect the aims of the Nazi regime.

Also similar to Werwolf were the Forest Brothers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who continued to wage armed guerrilla resistance against the Soviet occupation of their nations from the end of the Second World War until as late as 1957. Although few Forest Brothers were of German ethnicity, many of them had originally served in military units which had been allied with the Third Reich. As with the resistance movement among ethnic Germans in eastern Europe, however, the Forest Brothers were only interested in the liberation of their lands from Soviet rule, rather than an attempted resurrection of Nazi war aims.

In recent politics

The history of Werwolf was compared to the Iraqi insurgency by the Bush Administration and other Iraq War supporters.[30][31] In speeches given on August 25, 2003 to the Veterans of Foreign Wars by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld parallels were drawn between the problems faced by the coalition's occupation forces in Iraq to those encountered by occupation forces in post-World War II Germany, asserting that the Iraqi insurgency would ultimately prove to be as futile in realizing its objectives as had the Werwolves.[32]

Former National Security Council staffer Daniel Benjamin published a riposte in Slate magazine on August 29, 2003, entitled "Condi’s Phony History: Sorry, Dr. Rice, postwar Germany was nothing like Iraq"[33] in which he took Rice and Rumsfeld to task for mentioning the Werwolf, writing that the reality of postwar Germany bore no resemblance to the occupation of Iraq, and made reference to Anthony Beevor's The Fall of Berlin 1945 and the US Army's official history, The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946,[34] where the Werwolf were only mentioned twice in passing.[35] This did not prevent his political opponents from disagreeing with him, using Biddiscombe's book as a source.[36]

Given the events that came to pass after the Bush Administration's comparison, the most striking difference is the fact that in Iraq, many more (over twenty times as many) coalition soldiers were killed in combat after victory had been declared by President Bush on 1 May 2003 than had been killed during the initial invasion.[37] In Germany, not a single Allied soldier was ever proven to have been killed as a result of hostile action after the German surrender on 8 May 1945.[35] Another is that Biddiscombe maintains that what little resistance to the occupation there was in Germany had evaporated within two years of the end of the war, while violent opposition to the occupation of Iraq and its new government has continued (as of this writing) for more than six years after the invasion.[37]

In popular culture

  • In the manga Hellsing, a secret British organisation fights against a Nazi battalion based in Brazil. It moved there during the last months of the war and some of its officers are referred as being Werwölfe. They fight to overthrow Britain using a battalion of artificially created vampires.
  • In the Lars von Trier film, Europa (released in North America as Zentropa), Werwolf terrorist plots months after the end of the war play a prominent role in the story. Here, Werwolf is shown as not only surviving the war, but of having been a genuine threat to the occupation. One of their attacks is a highly fictionalized version of the assassination of Dr. Franz Oppenhoff (named Ravenstein in the film), although his death is depicted as taking place in late 1945, when in fact it had occurred in March 1945, while the war was still going on.
  • Samuel Fuller directed the 1959 film Verboten! about the love between a GI (James Best) and a German woman (Susan Cummings) whose brother is active in the Werewolves.
  • In the French comic book "Anton Six" (José Louis Bocquet/Arno) the U.S Secret Service sent an agent to meet Werwolf soldiers in Ukraine which possessed information about Stalin and the Red Army.
  • In the 2007 movie, Grindhouse, Rob Zombie directed a short fictional movie preview, titled "Werewolf Women of the SS".
  • Operation Werwolf is referred to in passing in the both the book and movie The Odessa File.
  • In the James Bond novel Moonraker, the villain Hugo Drax is described as having been part of a Werwolf operation behind Allied lines during World War II.
  • The 2008 alternate history novel The Man with the Iron Heart by Harry Turtledove is premised on the idea of a successful Werwolf insurgency led by Reinhard Heydrich.
  • Although Werwolf is not mentioned by name, Roberto Rossellini's 1948 film, Germany Year Zero depicts a young boy living in the ruins of Berlin in the aftermath of the war who encounters a former teacher who is part of an underground Nazi network. Seeing an opportunity to revive Nazi ideology in the post-war generation, the teacher seduces the boy to euthanise his own sick father, in accordance with the Nazi belief in the survival of the fittest.
  • In The Illuminatus! Trilogy, the Werewolves are mentioned as being controlled by the Vehmic courts, who are in turn controlled by the Illuminati.
  • In the 1947 novel 'Gimlet Mops Up' by W.E. Johns, Gimlet uncovers a werwolf cell operating in Britain, attempting to assassinate high profile members of the British Armed forces for 'War Crimes'. In this story the Nazis wear werewolf masks to hide their identity.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 464)
  2. ^ Beevor, Antony (2002). The Fall of Berlin 1945. Penguin. p. 173. ISBN 0142002801. 
  3. ^ Watt, Roderick H. (October 1992). "Wehrwolf or Werwolf? Literature, Legend, or Lexical Error into Nazi Propaganda?". The Modern Language Review 87 (4): 879–895. 
  4. ^ Neumann, Klaus (2000). Shifting Memories: The Nazi Past in the New Germany. University of Michigan Press. p. 50. ISBN 047208710X. 
  5. ^ Warlimont, Walter (1964). Inside Hitler's Headquarters, 1939–45. F.A. Praeger. p. 246. 
  6. ^ Klemperer, Victor; Roderick H. Watt (1997). An Annotated Edition of Victor Klemperer's LTI, Notizbuch eines Philologen. E. Mellen Press. p. 305. ISBN 077348681X. 
  7. ^ Dearn, Alan; Elizabeth Sharp (2006). The Hitler Youth 1933–45. Osprey Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 184176874X. 
  8. ^ Beevor, Antony (2002). The Fall of Berlin 1945. Viking. pp. 490. ISBN 978-0670030415. 
  9. ^ Dobbins, James; McGinn, John G.; Crane, Keith; Jones, Seth G.; Lal, Rollie; Rathmell, Andrew; Swanger, Rachel M.; Timilsina, Anga (PDF), America's Role in Nation-Building From Germany to Iraq, RAND Corporation,, retrieved 2007-08-03 
  10. ^ Mann, Golo (1984). The History of Germany Since 1789. Vintage/Ebury. pp. 560. ISBN 978-0701113469. 
  11. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 275)
  12. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 151)
  13. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 80)
  14. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 197)
  15. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 152)
  16. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 115)
  17. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 51)
  18. ^ Roehner, Bertrand M. (PDF), RELATIONS BETWEEN ALLIED FORCES AND THE POPULATION OF GERMANY,, retrieved 2007-08-03 
  19. ^ Rempel, Gerhard (1989). Hitler's Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS. UNC Press. pp. 244. ISBN 0807842990. 
  20. ^ Whiting, Charles (2002). Monty's Greatest Victory. Leo Cooper. pp. 83. 
  21. ^ "Voice of Russia: Commandant of Berlin". Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  22. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 139)
  23. ^ Miller, Edward G. (2007). Nothing Less Than Full Victory. Naval Institute Press. pp. 254. ISBN 1591144949. 
  24. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 254)
  25. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 256)
  26. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 263)
  27. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 265)
  28. ^ (Biddiscombe 1998, p. 276)
  29. ^ a b Fritz, Stephen G. (2004). Endkampf: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Death of the Third Reich. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 218 – 219. ISBN 0813123259. 
  30. ^ Rumsfeld, Donald H (2006-07-19). "DefenseLink Speech: Veterans of Foreign Wars". Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defence. US Department of Defence. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  31. ^ Rice, Condoleezza (2003-08-25). "National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice Remarks to Veterans of Foreign Wars". Office of the Press Secretary. White House. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  32. ^ Carafano, James (September 23, 2003). "A Phony "Phony History"". Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  33. ^ Benjamin, Daniel (2003-08-29). "Condi Rice's phony history". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  35. ^ a b Benjamin, Daniel (2003-08-29). "Condi's Phony History". Slate magazine. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  36. ^ Marek, Ed (September 1, 2003). "The occupation of Germany, the occupation of Iraq, many parallels". Talking Proud!. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  37. ^ a b Iraq Coalition Casualty Count: Coalition Deaths by Country


  • Biddiscombe, Perry (1998), Werwolf!: The History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement, 1944–1946, University of Toronto Press, pp. 464, ISBN 978-0802008626 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

WERWOLF (from A.S. wer; cf. Lat. vir, man; and wolf; or, according to a later suggestion, from O.H.G. weri, wear, i.e. wearer of the wolf-skin), a man transformed temporarily or permanently into a wolf. The belief in the possibility of such a change is a special phase of the general doctrine of lycanthropy. In the European history of this singular belief, wolf transformations appear as by far the most prominent and most frequently recurring instances of alleged metamorphosis, and consequently in most European languages the terms expressive of the belief have a special reference to the wolf. Examples of this are found in the Gr. XvrcavOponros, Russian volkodldk, Eng. "werwolf," Ger. wahrwolf, Fr. loup-garou. More general terms (e.g. Lat., versipellis; Russ., oboroten; O. Norse, hamrainmr; Eng. "turnskin," "turncoat") are sufficiently numerous to furnish some evidence that the class of animals into which metamorphosis was possible was not viewed as a restricted one. But throughout the greater part of Europe the werwolf is preferred; there are old traditions of his existence in England, in Wales and in Ireland; in southern France, Germany, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Servia, Bohemia, Poland and Russia he can hardly be pronounced extinct now; in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland the bear competes with the wolf for preeminence.

In Greek mythology the story of Lycaon supplies the most familiar instance of the werwolf. According to one form of it Lycaon was transformed into a wolf as a result of eating human flesh; one of those who were present at periodical sacrifice on Mount Lycaon was said to suffer a similar fate. Pliny, quoting Euanthes, tells us (Hist. Nat. viii. 22) that a man of the family of Antaeus was selected by lot and brought to a lake in Arcadia, where he hung his clothing on an ash and swam across. This resulted in his being transformed into a wolf, and he wandered in this shape nine years. Then, if he had attacked no human being, he was at liberty to swim back and resume his former shape. Probably the two stories are identical, though we hear nothing of participation in the Lycaean sacrifice by the descendant of Antaeus. Herodotus (iv. 105) tells us that the Neuri, a tribe of eastern Europe, were annually transformed for a few days, and Virgil (Ed. viii. 98) is familiar with transformation of human beings into wolves.

There are women, so the Armenian belief runs, who in consequence of deadly sins are condemned to pass seven years in the form of a wolf. A spirit comes to such a woman and brings her a wolf's skin. He orders her to put it on, and no sooner has she done this than the most frightful wolfish cravings make their appearance and soon get the upper hand. Her better nature conquered, she makes a meal of her own children, one by one, then of her relatives' children according to the degree of relationship, and finally the children of strangers begin to fall a prey to her. She wanders forth only at night, and doors and locks spring open at her approach. When morning draws near she returns to human form and removes her wolf skin. In these cases the transformation was involuntary or virtually so. But side by side with this belief in involuntary metamorphosis, we find the belief that human beings can change themselves into animals at will and then resume their own form.

The expedients supposed to be adopted for effecting change of shape may here be noticed. One of the simplest apparently was the removal of clothing, and in particular of a girdle of human skin, or the putting on of such a girdle - more commonly the putting on of a girdle of the skin of the animal whose form was to be assumed. This last device is doubtless a substitute for the assumption of an entire animal skin, which also is frequently found. In other cases the body is rubbed with a magic salve. To drink water out of the footprint of the animal in question, to partake of its brains, to drink of certain enchanted streams, were also considered effectual modes of accomplishing metamorphosis. Olaus Magnus says that the Livonian werwolves were initiated by draining a cup of beer specially prepared, and repeating a set formula. Ralston in his Songs of the Russian People gives the form of incantation still familiar in Russia. Various expedients also existed for removing the beast-shape. The simplest was the act of the enchanter (operating either on himself or on a victim); another was the removal of the animal girdle. To kneel in one spot for a hundred years, to be reproached with being a werwolf, to be saluted with the sign of the cross, or addressed thrice by baptismal name, to be struck three blows on the forehead with a knife, or to have at least three drops of blood drawn were also effectual cures. In other cases the transformation was supposed to be accomplished by Satanic agency voluntarily submitted to, and that for the most loathsome ends, in particular for the gratification of a craving for human flesh. "The werwolves," writes Richard Verstegan (Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, 1628), "are certayne sorcerers, who having annoynted their bodies with an oyntment which they make by the instinct of the devill, and putting on a certayne inchaunted girdle, doe not onely unto the view of others seeme as wolves, but to their owne thinking have both the shape and nature of wolves, so long as they weare the said girdle. And they do dispose themselves as very wolves, in wourrying and killing, and most of humane creatures." Such were the views about lycanthropy current throughout the continent of Europe when Verstegan wrote. France in particular seems to have been infested with werwolves during the 16th century, and the consequent trials were very numerous. In some of the cases - e.g. those of the Gandillon family in the Jura, the tailor of Chalons and Roulet in Angers, all occurring in the year 1598, - there was clear evidence against the accused of murder and cannibalism, but none of association with wolves; in other cases, as that of Gilles Gamier in Dole in 1573, there was clear evidence against some wolf, but none against the accused; in all the cases, with hardly an exception, there was that extraordinary readiness in the accused to confess and even to give circumstantial details of the metamorphosis, which is one of the most inexplicable concomitants of 'medieval witchcraft. Yet, while this lycanthropy fever, both of suspectors and of suspected, was at its height, it was decided in the case of Jean Grenier at Bordeaux, in 1603, that lycanthropy was nothing more than an insane delusion. From this time the loup-garou gradually ceased to be regarded as a dangerous heretic, and fell back into his pre-Christianic position of being simply a "man-wolf-fiend," as which he still survives among the French peasantry. In Prussia, Livonia and Lithuania, according to the bishops Olaus Magnus and Majolus, the werwolves were in the 16th century far more destructive than "true and natural wolves," and their heterodoxy appears from the assertion that they formed "an accursed college" of those "desirous of innovations contrary to the divine law." In England, however, where at the beginning of the 17th century the punishment of witchcraft was still zealously prosecuted by James I., the wolf had been so long extinct that that pious monarch was himself able (Demonologie, lib. iii.) to regard "warwoolfes" as victims of delusion induced by "a naturall superabundance of melancholie." Only small creatures, such as the cat, the hare and the weasel, remained for the malignant sorcerer to transform himself into; but he was firmly believed to avail himself of these agencies. Belief in witch-animals still survives among the uneducated classes in parts of the United Kingdom.

The werwolves of the Christian dispensation were not, however, all heretics, all viciously disposed towards mankind. "According to Baronius, in the year 617, a number of wolves presented themselves at a monastery, and tore in pieces several friars who entertained heretical opinions. The wolves sent by God tore the sacrilegious thieves of the army of Francesco Maria, duke of Urbino, who had come to sack the treasure of the holy house of Loreto. A wolf guarded and defended from the wild beasts the head of St Edmund the martyr, king of England. St Oddo, abbot of Cluny, assailed in a pilgrimage by foxes, was delivered and escorted by a wolf" (A. de Gubernatis, Zoological Mythology, 1872, vol. ii. p. 145). Many of the werwolves were most innocent and God-fearing persons, who suffered through the witchcraft of others, or simply from an unhappy f ate, and who as wolves behaved in a truly touching fashion, fawning upon and protecting their benefactors. Of this sort were the "Bisclaveret" in Marie de France's poem (c. 1200), the hero of "William and the Were-wolf" (translated from French into English about 1350), and the numerous princes and princesses, knights and ladies, who appear temporarily in beast form in the Miirchen of the Aryan nations generally. Nay, the power of transforming others into wild beasts was attributed not only to malignant sorcerers, but also to Christian saints. "Omnes angeli, boni et mali, ex virtute naturali habent potestatem transmutandi corpora nostra," was the dictum of St Thomas Aquinas. St Patrick transformed Vereticus, king of Wales, into a wolf; and St Natalis cursed an illustrious Irish family, with the result that each member of it was doomed to be a wolf for. seven years. In other tales the divine agency is still more direct, while in Russia, again, men are supposed to become werwolves through incurring the wrath of the devil.

Literature. - In the numerous medieval works directed to the study of sorcery and witchcraft, the contemporaneous phases of lycanthropy occupy a prominent place. In addition to the authors who have been already mentioned, the following may be named as giving special attention to this subject: Wier, De praestigiis daemonum (Amsterdam, 1563); Bodin, Demonomanie des sorciers (Paris, 1580); Boguet, Discours des sorciers (Lyons, 2nd ed. 1608); Lancre, Tableau de l'inconstance de mauvais anges (Paris, 1613); Psellus, De operatione daemonum (Paris, 1615); see also Glanvil, Sadducismus triumphatus, for the English equivalents of lycanthropy. Treatises solely confined to lycanthropy are rare both in medieval and in modern times; but a few are well known, as, for instance, those of Bourquelot and Nynauld, De la lycanthropie (Paris, 1615). See also Leubuscher, Uber die Wehrwolfe (1850); Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, 4, ii. and iii.; Hertz, Der Werwolf (Stuttgart, 1862); Baring Gould, The Book of Were-wolves (London, 1865). Also the bibliography to Lycanthropy, and Andree, Ethnographische Parallelen, 1st series, 62-80; Tylor, Primitive Culture, i.; P. Sebillot, Traditions de la Haute-Bretagne, i. 289.

(N. W. T.; J. F. M`L.)

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Werwolf m. (genitive Werwolfs or Werwolfes, plural Werwölfe)

  1. werewolf

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